As Easy as A-B-C

The Akron Barberton Cluster job that works customers on the former Erie Lackawanna line through Kent is all about industrial railroading. There is no mainline action here. The crew backs a cut of tank cars onto the siding leading to the Crowley Tar Products plant in Kent.

The Akron Barberton Cluster job that works customers on the former Erie Lackawanna line through Kent is all about industrial railroading. There is no mainline action here. The crew backs a cut of tank cars onto the siding leading to the Crowley Tar Products plant in Kent.

Catching the Akron Barberton Cluster Railway in operation on the former Erie Lackawanna east of Kent requires persistence, luck and a knowledge of its operations.

If your railfanning opportunities are limited to weekends,  you’re out of luck. I’ve never seen an ABC train on a weekend in Kent aside from the passenger excursions that used to operate in conjunction with an annual festival held around July 4.

The ABC on the ex-EL is a weekday operation and you need to stake out the tracks during the morning hours.

On a recent Friday morning, I went down to Brady Lake to hike on the Portage Hike and Bike trail. It runs parallel to the ex-EL (nee Erie Railroad) for much of its length between Ravenna Road and Kent.

As is my usual practice, I parked in the lot just off Lake Rockwell Road by the grade crossing with the ex-EL tracks, which are now owned by Portage County.

I got out of my car, looked to the west and saw a headlight and spot of orange. The ABC job probably was switching the Crowley Tar Products plant in Kent.

But the train was a good half mile away and the question was whether I could walk fast enough to get there before the crew finished its work and headed back to Brittain Yard in Akron or went to Ravenna.

I tried to set a blistering pace and wished a dozen times I had a bike. Every so often I would stop and take a photo in case the train had left for Akron before I could get to it.

Of course, if it was going to Ravenna it would be coming toward me. At one point I could tell the headlight was getting smaller and I feared the worst.

But a glimpse through the longest focal length on my zoom lens revealed that there were tank cars parked on the main and the locomotive was to the left of that.

That was good news because it meant the crew was spotting cars on the Crowley siding.

It turned out I had plenty of time and then some to get down to the ABC job and to get photographs. I didn’t see any boxcars, which suggested the crew would not be going to Ravenna.

After getting my photographs, I hung around a bit, but then decided to go back to my vehicle.

The ABC job had two Wheeling & Lake Erie GP35 locomotives. As I left, the locomotives, a tank car and a covered hopper were sitting on what used to be the eastbound EL mainline.

I kept looking behind me as I walked away from the train, which appeared to be sitting still. The headlight was still visible when I got back to the parking lot at Lake Rockwell Road, so I decided to stay put, just in case.

Slowly, but surely, I noticed the headlight getting larger. The train was coming toward me and going to Ravenna today.

I photographed it at the Lake Rockwell crossing. I had to get back home so there wasn’t enough time to wait for the train to come back. Next time.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

The ABC switcher was not being used today. Instead, the motive power was a pair of W&LE GP35s.

The ABC switcher was not being used today. Instead, the motive power was a pair of W&LE GP35s, Nos. 100 and 104.

A crew member has set the hand brake on the tank car on the main. It will be left there while the crew spots more tank cars at Crowley Tar.

A crew member has set the hand brake on the tank car on the main. It will be left there while the crew spots more tank cars at Crowley Tar.

Throwing the switch that leads to Crowley Tar. It is the only switch left in what used to be a large yard for the Erie Railroad.

Throwing the switch that leads to Crowley Tar. It is the only mainline switch left in what used to be a large yard for the Erie Railroad.

The Portage Hike and Bike trail is on the right. The wood rail in the foreground is part of the bridge over Breakneck Creek.

The Portage Hike and Bike trail is on the right. The wood rail in the foreground is part of the bridge over Breakneck Creek.

My intent was to frame the train with that utility pole, which is now stripped of its wires. I've photographed this pole before but never with a train in the scene.

My intent was to frame the train with that utility pole, which is now stripped of its wires. I’ve photographed this pole before but never with a train in the scene.

Crossing Lake Rockwell Road. In the EL and Erie days there used to be a bridge here over the tracks.

Crossing Lake Rockwell Road. In the EL and Erie days there used to be a bridge here over the tracks.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

One Response to “As Easy as A-B-C”

  1. tylerjs40 Says:

    Nice catches.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


%d bloggers like this: